Northwest Missouri State University will open the 2011 football season ranked No. 3 as announced by the American Football Coaches Association preseason top 25 poll.

The Bearcats sit behind last year’s national champion, Minnesota-Duluth, and national runner-up, Delta State. The Bulldogs eliminated Northwest in the national semifinals a year ago, 17-13, and received 28 of 29 first-place votes while the Bearcats picked up the final tally.

The Mules finished 11-3 a season ago and were ranked No. 5in the final AFCA poll. The 11 wins were the most in a single-season in school history to go along with the first home playoff game and first playoff win as UCM advanced to the national quarterfinals. The Mules return 16 starters and 48 lettermen from last season’s squad.

1. Minnesota-Duluth (28)

15-0

724

1

2. Delta St. (Miss.)

11-4

657

2

3. Northwest Missouri St. (1)

12-2

624

3

4. Abilene Christian (Texas)

11-1

607

8

5. Grand Valley St. (Mich.)

11-2

579

10

6. North Alabama

9-4

468

22

7. Texas A&M-Kingsville

10-2

437

9

8. Augustana (S.D.)

11-2

426

6

9T. Albany St. (Ga.)

11-1

379

4

9T. Bloomsburg (Pa.)

10-3

379

15

11. Shepherd (W.Va.)

12-2

377

7

12. California (Pa.)

10-2

369

14

13. St. Cloud State (Minn.)

10-3

346

12

14. Wingate (N.C.)

9-3

284

20

15. Central Missouri

11-3

270

5

16. Nebraska-Kearney

9-2

242

23

17. Mercyhurst (Pa.)

10-3

207

11

18. Washburn (Kan.)

8-4

201

NR

19. West Texas A&M

8-4

186

18

20. Valdosta St. (Ga.)

8-3

184

17

21. Wayne St. (Mich.)

9-2

177

21

22. Central Washington

8-3

164

NR

23. Kutztown (Pa.)

10-2

144

13

24. Henderson St. (Ark.)

7-4

139

NR

25T. Hillsdale (Mich.)

9-3

91

16

25T. Shaw (N.C.)

9-3

91

NR